There seem to be five stages of Government policy making.
First they cut. Cut services, cut investment, cut their nose off to spite their face. The alternative is to cut public services adrift and sell them off to the private sector. So prisons are privatised, closed or staffing levels cut. Boarder Agency staff are made redundant.
Then comes denial. There is no problem. Everything is going exactly according to plan. Even when the people in the know, the people working at the coal face, tell them there is a problem then they are derided. Their concerns are just self-interest. What does the Inspector of Prisons know about prisons after all?
After denial comes blame. Okay, there maybe a problem after all. Yes some prisons maybe a bit full right now. A few people may be waiting a tad long for passports but it’s not their fault. The previous administration left them with no money. These are difficult times. They are taking difficult decisions because of what happened before they came along. But they are not going to apologise for that.
Until they do apologise. That is what comes next. A Ministerial apology. There might be a problem. They are sorry if people have been inconvenienced (not that they will ever apologise to prisoners, prisoners do not have the vote so there is no point apologising to them – ever). They repeat that the problem is obviously someone else’s fault. They listened to the people who knew and when the people who knew had a choice between utter disaster and minor disaster they opted for the minor disaster so, if you think about it, it is really the fault of the people in the know that a minor disaster has now occurred. And the Government are really sorry they listened to those, supposedly, clever people. It is the kind of apology that parents force toddlers into making. “Say sorry for gouging your sister’s eye out” and everything is cured.
And then the Government leap into action. Usually by producing a wildly expensive sticking plaster to temporarily fix what they have broken. Rehiring prisoner officers to cope, advertising for probation officers from Australia, recruiting people to process passport applications, supplementing the pay of interpreters….the list goes on.
Of course all of these could be avoided if they took one, very important step at the very beginning. That would be called listening.